My stay at Kishauwau’s Starved Rock Area Cabins was complimentary. All opinions are 100% my own. Click here for full disclosure statement.
As the world is slowly attempting to return to pre-pandemic life, folks are starting to think about traveling again. There is still so much uncertainty, though; therefore, many people are looking to plan getaways closer to home. Travelers are also considering trips they may not have done otherwise, like RV camping or renting a secluded cabin. According to Dr. Emily Landon, epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist at University of Chicago Medicine, staying at a cabin “in the woods where you’re not going to have a lot of contact with other people,” is a relatively low-risk vacation option.* An ideal place to do just that is Kishauwau’s Starved Rock Area Cabins in Tonica, Illinois.
Built-in social distancing
Even before COVID-19 turned the world upside down, Kishauwau was the perfect place to really go off the grid. There is absolutely zero cell service and no WiFi in the cabins. The “wooded oasis” is located approximately two hours west of Chicago. There are 17 cabins, able to accommodate parties of varying sizes, intentionally spaced to provide serenity and seclusion.
It’s difficult to NOT exercise social distancing at Kishauwau; it was designed that way. The point of staying at a cabin in the woods is to disconnect from others (besides those in your traveling party) and from technology. And now that social distancing is a thing, places like Kishauwau are in demand. The property owners have responded accordingly and established their own safety protocols, taking measures to a higher level. Their social-distancing guidelines are outlined on the Kishauwau website’s home page.
Each cabin has a full kitchen with all the modern conveniences, as well as an outdoor fire pit, grill, and picnic table. Kishauwau is open year-round so cabins are also equipped with central air conditioning and furnace heat. Twelve of the 17 cabins feature oversized whirlpool tubs, as well. As mentioned, there is no cell service and no WiFi at the cabins. While there are televisions and DVD players in the cabins, there is no cable. Bring your own DVDs or borrow from Kishauwau’s extensive collection at the property office. (Due to current social distancing guidelines, only one family/cabin party is allowed in the office at a time.)
Kishauwau caters to families, couples, hunters, and dog lovers. On the other hand, Kishauwau is not appropriate for bachelor/bachelorette parties or other types of notoriously raucous groups. Kishauwau has been family owned and operated for more than 30 years as a relaxing retreat, a place to get away from it all. The current owners intend to keep it that way.
Cabins range in size from sleeping 1-2 people to accommodating up to 14. Individual cabins may be designated as adults-0nly or dog-friendly. So, for the sake of convenience, each cabin is listed below with its specifications (and a bit of editorial comment from me, as I got to view most of the cabins during my stay).
Jack’s Deluxe Whirlpool Cabin
Four-room cabin perfect for a romantic getaway. Features double-sized whirlpool tub and large outdoor deck. The entrance is on the second level so guests must be able to climb a flight of stairs.
Americana, Pines, Shady Oaks, Apache, Chippewa, and Wilderness Cabins
Each fully-equipped cabin has a 2-person maximum with a queen bed. Double-sized whirlpool tub and separate shower in the bathroom.
Maximum occupancy of 3 adults OR 2 adults and 2 children. Bridge Cabin was recently renovated and features a queen bed as well as a futon. Bathroom with standard tub/shower.
Maximum occupancy of 3 people. Features one queen bed and one twin bed. Double-sized whirlpool tub and separate shower in the bathroom.
Maximum occupancy of 3 people. Features one queen bed and one twin bed. Double-sized whirlpool tub and separate shower in the bathroom. Children under the age of 10 are not allowed at Hunters Cabin. It is situated on a bluff with a steep dropoff that could be dangerous for younger children.
Hunters Cabin was my home during my stay at Kishauwau. It was very cozy and comfortable. I loved opening the windows in the morning to hear the birds chirping and the frogs croaking while I enjoyed my coffee. Later in the day, I opened the rest of the windows to let in the warm breeze and took the most glorious afternoon naps ever.
The only 2-bedroom/2-bathroom cabin on the property. Maximum occupancy is 6 adults or up to 8 people if including two children under the age of 5. Queen beds in the bedrooms and 2 futons in the living room. Showers only in both bathrooms. Illini Cabin is a favorite among hunters and anglers and works well to accommodate larger families.
Maximum occupancy of 6 adults. One bedroom with a queen bed. Four twin beds around the perimeter of the spacious living room. Shower only in the bathroom.
Kishauwau is known for hosting family reunions, where multiple cabins are rented by groups from the same extended family. Grandma’s Cabin is often included and used as the gathering spot for such reunions. With social distancing measures in place at the moment, such gatherings with extended family from different areas might not be the best idea. That being said, Grandma’s Cabin is still available for groups of up to 14.
Grandma’s Cabin has 4 bedrooms, each with a queen bed, and six twin beds along the wall in the common area. There are two full bathrooms with showers and two stoves in the kitchen. Also in the common area is a 60-inch television with satellite reception and a DVD player, as well as a gas fireplace. Outside, there are 4 picnic tables and a charcoal grill.
Mother-In-Law, Zonta, Commanche, and Winnebago Cabins
These four cabins are specifically designated as dog-friendly. That means they are reserved only for guests traveling with their dogs unless the cabins are needed as part of a multiple-cabin reservation for a family reunion. Each of these cabins has a maximum human occupancy of 3 adults OR 2 adults and 2 children and a maximum canine occupancy of 2 dogs. All four cabins feature 1 queen bed and one futon, with Commanche, Winnebago, and Zonta having whirlpool tubs. Mother-In-Law has the standard tub/shower combination. Kishauwau is proud to offer accommodations for travelers and their furry friends. Just be sure to read over the dog rental policies ahead of time.
It is possible to stay at Kishauwau and be in your cabin only to sleep. Along with picnic tables and fire pits, all cabins have a covered porch with a swing and/or chairs. It is such a lovely option to sit and read a book or just listen to the sounds of nature. There is also a generous amount of open, green space for all cabin parties to enjoy without coming into contact with one another. As mentioned, guests may check out DVDs from the Kishauwau office. There are also board games and lawn games available. Kishauwau owners, Jamie and Terisa King, live on the property. Their home is near the entrance off the main road so they are always nearby if needed. There is a landline phone at the office that guests may use to contact the Kings in case of an emergency.
Things to do near Kishauwau’s Starved Rock Area Cabins
As the name would imply, Kishauwau’s cabins are in close proximity to Starved Rock State Park. Starved Rock is what draws most visitors to the area, making it one of the most popular of Illinois’ state parks. Steep sandstone canyons line the Illinois River, creating some of the state’s prettiest scenery. There are also a number of waterfalls in the park, their intensity dependent upon weather and water levels. Starved Rock is a favorite among hikers, boaters, anglers, and – in the winter – ice climbers. Kishauwau is a 10-minute drive from the entrance to Starved Rock.
The often-overlooked Matthiessen State Park is also ten minutes from Kishauwau by car. Matthiessen is a lot like Starved Rock and a lot less crowded. For some reason, visitors tend to bypass Matthiessen and head straight to Starved Rock. I was one of those people until my stay at Kishauwau. I skipped Starved Rock altogether (I’ve been dozens of times), spending my time at Matthiessen instead. It is just as scenic as Starved Rock and definitely quieter. I visited Matthiessen shortly after some heavy rains so many of the trails were flooded or too muddy to traverse. I would love to get back there again to explore some more.
Note: As Illinois is preparing to enter into Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, most state parks will reopen to the public effective May 29, 2020. Please see the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website for more detailed information.
Visit the town of Ottawa
The historic river town of Ottawa makes for an enjoyable half-day trip from Kishauwau. Part of the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, Ottawa’s Washington Square was the site of the first of seven senatorial debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. The debate took place on August 21, 1858, and reportedly drew more than 20,000 spectators. Today, bronze statues of Lincoln and Douglas stand in Washington Square Park among a bubbling fountain. Since Lincoln is so recognizable, even the smallest historians will delight in spotting Lincoln’s likeness around town. Under normal circumstances, I’d recommend stopping in at Tangled Roots Brewing Company on LaSalle Street for a bite and a pint. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Tangled Roots is currently offering curbside pickup only, including their packaged beer. So, place an order, pick up some grub and some beers, and take it back to your Kishauwau cabin to enjoy.
Lodi Tap House – Utica
If I lived closer to the town of Utica, I would be at Lodi Tap House at least twice a week. The food is outstanding, the beer choices unbelievable, and the service incomparable. I stopped in at Lodi twice during my stay at Kishauwau. The first time was because of the free WiFi (I was working on a freelance project with a deadline). The second time was because the first visit was so awesome!
Located in a charming historic corner building, Lodi Tap House is proudly “Illinois-Centric”. That means its extensive rotating beer menu consists of Illinois craft beers ONLY and the food is primarily sourced locally. As with Tangled Roots, Lodi Tap House is currently not open for dining in; however, food and beer pick-up and delivery are available.
Kishauwau’s Starved Rock Area Cabins truly is an oasis. Solitude, serenity, and social distancing are not only possible there, but pretty much guaranteed. If and when the disconnect and the quiet become too much, places like Ottawa and Utica are just a short car ride away.
* I am not a medical professional, nor am I an infectious diseases expert. By sharing this article, I am in no way encouraging anyone to put themselves or others in harm’s way. I found the article to be helpful and relevant, so I wanted to share it. If you are uncertain about traveling or other activities, please consult CDC guidelines, those of your local public health department, and/or that of the destination to which you’re considering travel.
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